Commissioners delay Parkside action; Ramsey, Stanley received donations from developer

After a closed session July 25, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners decided to delay acting on reacquiring the Parkside land until after Aug. 25, when a summary judgment in a lawsuit by George Pack’s heirs is expected. Also, campaign-finance records reveal that Parkside developer Stewart Coleman and his employees have donated $1,500 to the re-election campaign of commissioner Bill Stanley and $600 to that of Chairman Nathan Ramsey. Both commissioners have defended the controversial project.

In a brief announcement after the two-hour closed session, Ramsey read a statement of the board’s position:

“We will wait and see what the outcome of [the lawsuit] is,” Ramsey said. “We will continue with all parties to look for a solution to this case. We received legal advice from our counsel about all options, including condemnation [using eminent domain], and we are restricted by North Carolina law not to pay in excess of fair-market value.”

Questioned by reporters after the meeting, Stanley denied that the donations from Coleman and his employees affected his actions.

“Those checks came in the mail. It doesn’t change what I say or how I vote,” Stanley, a Democrat, said, also indicating that he opposes the possibility of using eminent domain to get the property back and still believes that the original sale to Coleman was a good deal.

Ramsey also said the donations played no role in shaping his positions. He too has previously indicated that he does not support using eminent domain to gain the property back, partially because a court would decide what amount the county would have to pay Coleman for the property.

“I haven’t voted any differently than any of the other commissioners,” Ramsey, a Republican, said. “We’re all on the same page: We don’t want the taxpayers to get stuck footing the bill” for reacquiring the land.

Earlier in the week, Vice Chair David Gantt said that he was in favor of purchasing the Parkside property soon, and that “it’s time to get this nightmare behind us.” He also said the county had offered Coleman $4 million for the Hayes-Hopson building and the former parkland, but that Coleman wants $4.5 million.

After the closed session, Gantt said that the judgment in the lawsuit “may change some of complexities of where we’re at, and we felt it was important to get more information from our partners. We’re limited by state law to pay fair-market value for any parcel of the property. So we’re going to have to continue our talks and look for other partners.”

He then added, “My position [on purchasing the property] hasn’t changed, but it takes three people on the board” to take such an action.

Commissioner Carol Peterson said that she still doesn’t regret her original vote, though she added that, due to facts that have come to light since, she does favor getting the property back.

“Where I am now is that we should wait for the judgment on the lawsuit and [get] all the people together to play nice—but there are a lot of people to bring to the table,” she said, adding that she doesn’t favor using eminent domain, except as a last resort.

As for what the board could do before Aug. 25, she simply said, “Well, discussion is always good.”

To see the records of the donations to Stanley and Ramsey, go to www.mountainx.com/xpressfiles.

Here’s a video of the commissioners’ announcement:

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